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Just like with the technical side of the game, there are a number of skills you need to master if you want to build a strong poker mindset.
Some of those might come to you more naturally than others, but if you are like most poker players I’ve worked with, you need to continually upgrade them to perform at your best.
Today we are going to deep dive into the one mental skill that will have the highest ROI for most of you once you fully develop it.
So what is this win-rate boosting super power you need to be working on?
It’s no other than (drum roll please...)
Without a doubt, how well you are able to focus has a massive impact on your poker performance.
I’m sure that you can recall sessions where you were just in the zone, your focus was ramped up and you were playing great poker.
On the flip side, we’ve all had sessions where our mind is drifting, we can’t hold our focus and every spot feels challenging.
For most players this happens almost at random, some days they can focus and some days they can’t.
However, once you understand that your focus is like a muscle you can build and that there are specific ways to train it, everything changes.
The first component of focus is the ability to intensely hold your attention on something specific.
Think of this like shining a flashlight that only lights up the object you point it at.
Most of the time you want this light to be tight and narrow, only illuminating what’s important whilst filtering out everything else.
Imagine being in a tough river spot with 100 HUD stats on your screen and quickly being able to zone in on the 2-3 stats that will allow you to make the best decision.
The second component of focus is your ability to sustain your focus for a long period of time.
Think of this like focus endurance, you are able to play long sessions and maintain a high level of focus even towards the end of your session.
So to simply things, you can say we have INTENSE focus and SUSTAINED focus.
Some players are good at one of these components and bad at the other.
Not many are very good at both.
The good news is they are just skills that can be trained and with a bit of work, you can build super strong focus muscles that give you a huge edge.
So how do you do that?
I’m a big believer that you should have a daily practice that trains your focus both on and off the tables.
The most powerful tool I’ve found for your off the table training, is a daily meditation practice (10-20 minutes).
Although most players who meditate use a guided meditation practice (which is fine for beginners), for deep focus training you want to be able to direct your own attention without having cues.
The practice is simple, you sit with your eyes closed and put your attention on your breath.
I find it helpful to notice the sensations I feel in my nostrils as I breathe in and breathe out.
That becomes the focal point, like shining your flashlight on a specific object, and provides an anchor for your attention.
What you’ll find is that you quickly get lost in thoughts (you can’t sustain attention), at which point all you do is notice this and shift your focus back to your breath.
Every time you do this it’s like doing a bicep curl for your focus muscle.
The goal is just to get good at noticing and bringing your attention back, it’s that simple.
However, don’t underestimate it’s value.
Do this everyday for a period of time and your ability to have intense focus that you can sustain for long periods will be at a different level.
The second way to train your focus muscle is whilst you are playing.
Even if you start your session with great focus, there will be a tipping point where your focus starts to waver (usually around the 30-60 minute mark for most players).
Your first job is to become good at noticing that your focus level has dropped and your second job is to ramp up your effort to focus for the next 5 minutes.
Think of this like being in the gym and squeezing out a few extra reps after the point you thought you were done.
Like any bodybuilder will tell you, this is where all the growth comes from and it works the same way for your focus muscle.
If you are able to consciously put more effort into focusing for just 5 minutes every time you are getting towards your limit, you are directly training your focus endurance.
Before long you will be able to play longer and longer sessions without a big drop off in focus.
You’ll also be able to regain your focus after just a short break, as a strong focus muscle can recover quickly.
So you now have two tools you can use each day to train your focus, put them into action and get developing your skills.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Training Your Mindset Skills which will be coming soon.
Your mindset and performance coach,
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